Working together to break up; a look at the collaborative divorce trend

Wednesday, October 31, 2012 - 1:00am

When a marriage dissolves, a couple often takes to fighting and moves further apart. But there is another way, an relatively new approach called collaborative divorce. It puts together a team of counselors, lawyers and a financial advisor to help the couple settle the end of their marriage outside the courtroom.

"They're wanting their attorneys to tell them what's right and what's wrong to do. But in a collaborative divorce they make all the decisions. There's no judge telling them this is the way it should be or this is what you have to do," explained Allison Kenan, a family therapist who specializes in helping children and their parents through divorce.

From the finances, to the lawyer, to the therapists, a group of specialists work together to help the couple amicably part ways.

"When it comes to their money, when it comes to everything, you know they work out all the details themselves. And so they really need that coach to support them to really figure out what they want and to communicate that to the other person in a respectful way," Kenan continued.

The coach Kenan refers to is a ‘Divorce Coach’, a mental health professional that helps both partners get through the situation while still keeping communication open.

But collaborative divorce is a practice that seems to have fallen off for many in the Baton Rouge area over the past few years. Those involved in the field say it may be because of the perceived costliness.

"Does it cost less necessarily? Not always, but in terms of value for the money you're putting out. You are getting a better value because the money you're spending is money that's being spent on people who are actively working to resolve your case," Explained Mary Heck Barrios, a Denham Springs lawyer who works with Kenan on a collaborative team.

Counselors and lawyers alike say at the end of the day a traditional divorce, ensuing legal battle and the aftermath can end up costing much more.

"What they don't see in the long run is how much money it can save, because if you litigate a case, that costs a lot of money. And then if you continue to have problems and you go back and you have to litigate again, and again it really gets expensive. And eventually I am going to see their children again in counseling," Kenan added.

Despite the recent local decline in the practice, those involved in collaborative divorce teams say a couple who uses their services will almost always end up better on the other end of the break-up.

"The jewel in the process is the coaching, because the coaching is what enables those people to improve their communication with one another and by virtue of improving their communication with one another they're much clearer in their understanding and their expectations of what they want," explained Barrios.

The collaborative divorce process has grown so large across the nation that there are now 10,000 licensed collaborative divorce professionals in the US alone. 


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